So, recently, I made a TikTok of a breakfast meal I often eat and share with Opie. This included pastured eggs, pastured bacon, sauerkraut and avocado. And let me tell you, Tik Tok was pissed. I’d forgotten that a lot of people in the US and Canada still hold true to the belief that avocados are toxic to dogs (spoiler alert, they’re not!).
I realized this meant I needed to clear the air and help educate my clients, friends and followers on why avocado isn’t actually toxic and how, in fact, the benefits can help our fur babies immensely. SORRY TIK TOK.
OK, well, let’s start with what got us here in the first place. Where did this piece of folklore originate? Similar to the myth surrounding garlic (don’t worry I’ll write something about that too), this all came from a single study out of South Africa in 1994 that discussed the “putative” (i.e. potential) death of two dogs due to avocado toxicity. Meaning, they weren’t definitive in their findings.
Sadly, the dogs had been starving and tucked into their share of avocados in their whole form including the leaves and tree bark.
Scientists then realized the reaction the dogs had (acute heart and organ failure) was similar to a study done with goats who died a similar death eating avocado leaves. And eventually, in 2012 Procter & Gamble decided to test out if avocado (without the leaves, stem and bark) was truly harmful to dogs. And because they have zero morals or qualms regarding animal testing, they ground up avocado including the skin and pit and fed it to a group of pups as an extract over the span of 6 months. And lo and behold the dogs were fine.
So, the poisonous substance that killed the dogs in the study in 1994 (and the goats as well) is called persin. Persin is a fungacidal toxin found throughout the entire avocado tree but is in its highest concentrations in the bark, stem and leaves. It’s not only just poisonous for dogs, it’s poisonous for humans as well.
What’s particularly interesting about persin is that in low dosages (such as that found in avocado flesh) it’s been shown to eradicate cancer cells! It’s a fascinating phenomenon called hormesis that refers to a dose-response relationship in which something that produces harmful effects at greater dosages produces therapeutic benefits at lower dosages- WILD.
So, basically, if you feed your dog the parts of the avocado that you eat yourself, you’ll be A-OK. In fact, you’ll be more than OK! Avocado flesh has a myriad of other healthful benefits for our dogs. It’s a healthy raw fat that helps our pups absorb fat soluble vitamins (A, E, D + K), it’s high in oleic acid (which helps to reduce inflammation), high in potassium, high in fibre and aids in reducing insulin levels and let’s face it, it’s delicious.
I get it’s confusing and difficult to make these decisions when large organizations like AKC and ASPCA are perpetuating these myths but sometimes it’s about using our better judgment and understanding that big corporations typically do try to create fear around food. And truthfully the only “food” we need to fear is the dead stuff that they’re trying to sell us.
When it comes to what you need to avoid in the realm of fresh for dogs- it’s strictly onions, macadamia nuts, cacao/cocoa and xylitol. Avocados are here to stay and a great way to enhance your dog's diet (and share more delicious nutritious food together!).